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The classic question, what predator?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Lucky KY Chicks, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. Lucky KY Chicks

    Lucky KY Chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2014
    Kentucky
    I came home late last night and had not shut the coop up yet. I knew something was very wrong because a large group of my 11 week olds were in the middle of the field near our house safety light. They were about 80 foot from the coop. I headed to the coop and only one chicken was in there but she was fine. The others were following me around with my flashlight so I started sticking them in the coop. Coop door is 10.5 inches by 12 inches. 6, 11 week old chicks were missing. They free range all day and I do not have a run surrounding my coop. I locked the remaining 30 up and got my lab from the house. He is a trained bird dog as well as being scent trained for several kinds of wildlife and is just generally nosy so I can send him on a just about any kind of animal trail. He pointed in the thick grass about 60 foot from the coop (opposite direction from house and from 1st group of chickens). In the grass I found my live and apparently unharmed EE cockerel. He is one of the better flyers. Walking further back my lab picked up a dead BCMarans cockerel and brought it to me. It was about 20 foot further than the EE so 80 foot from the coop. He was already stiff but only had evidence of predation on his neck in the form of small bloody scratches. No missing feathers. My lab followed a trail from here down the fence line to the apparent crossing point. Here I found a dead EE still warm. Head was gone, 1 leg gone. 1 leg present but eaten on. Entrails eaten on. It was not plucked and I only found a single loose feather here and there around the coop and field. My 90 lb lab barely fit under the fence crossing point even with me pulling up the bottom of the fence. Every predator here would be smaller than him though so that does not tell you much. In the next field, my lab went off still on the trail. I walked along after him looking for more signs. He came back after a minuet with my White New Jersey Giant pullet stiff and cold. Her head and neck were gone and her gizzard was hanging out. Most of her internal organs were gone. Still had her feathers and legs. I didn't see him pick her up but I would estimate her to be 150 to 200 foot from the coop on the other side of the fence. This is closer to the wooded area. We swept the back field but I called my lab back after we hit the woods. Didn't find any sign of my two remaining missing birds (two 11 week old Appenzeller Spitzhaubens). I set a live trap next to the coop with a dead chick for bait but nothing had triggered the trap by morning. Not surprising since I walked all the surrounding area with a dog. I will set it again tonight with live chickens next to it protected by a dog kennel covered with 1/2 inch wire mesh. But what could this be? I'm in central KY and we have bobcats, mink, skunks, racoons, oppossum, feral cats, foxes, coyotes, owl and it's possible that I missed a predator so feel free to add!
     
  2. morsekathan

    morsekathan Out Of The Brooder

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    May 12, 2011
    Maryland
    I say racoons, but it could be any of the mammals. Owls usually pick the chicks up out of a field. The best solution to this problem is an automatic door that operates on a timer. Some have photo sensors too so you don't even have to set the timer - the door opens and closes based on how much day light there is. Just search BYC and you'll find a lot of information. We have the Pullett-shut door and I really like it because it is a swing door, not a guillotine (or drop door) type, but there are many out there to choose from and instructions to make your own. We haven't lost a chicken to a night-time predator since getting it. I can't recommend it highly enough. No longer do you have to run home to shut the door - or fear coming home to this type of carnage. Worth every penny!
     
  3. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 18, 2013
    Pennsylvania
    What time do you suspect the attack took place? Before dusk, dusk, dark? That could make a difference. A missing head could indicate an opossum, but with the number of birds killed, but not carried off, that us confusing, plus the shear number of dead birds would indicate to me more than one predator, and not a predator who killed and ate.
    Would be interesting to know.
     
  4. Lucky KY Chicks

    Lucky KY Chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2014
    Kentucky
    I got home at 11:30 pm and the one EE was still warm when I found her dead. I'd imagine the other two I found were killed earlier since they were already cold and stiff but it was a brisk night so it would not take very long for their bodies to chill. I almost think it got in the coop and killed one, drug it away and ate it's internal organs, came back, killed another and drug it away and so on until it got the EE last and was in the process of eating it when I came out. Just a theory. I just know that they died at different times, one right before I found it and two that I found were already partially eaten. Multiple predators is possible I suppose but I would have expected even more killing if that were so because my 11 week olds huddle together right next to the coop door and they would make pretty easy targets.

    I actually built my coop to accommodate an ador automatic coop door. When I have the extra cash that is what will be going on it.
     

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